on 3 September 2012
There's an abundance of Furtwangler recordings available from the post-war period but his wartime recordings are hard to find. This set is very nicely transferred onto CD's with clarity, very good signal strength and a minimum of noise. The performances themselves range from good to absolutely breathtaking to very good with my personal favorites being Beethoven's Fifth and Seventh symphonies. This isn't a back-handed way of denigrating the rest of the recordings, they're ALL good. But the fifth and seventh convey a palpable sense of excitement that's woefully absent from nearly all modern recordings. I can only imagine what was in the hearts and minds of the audiences during these performances but as the recording dates move further along in time it's very easy to detect an increase of tension from the musicians.
I had intended to find the LP's and make my own digital transfer but the cost and effort required to find the LP's turned out to be prohibitive. This set isn't expensive, it's very nicely done and certainly solved a lot of my problems. I'm very glad that I was able to get it.
On a more judgmental note I have to confess a very strong bias in favor of analog recordings of classical music with a particular fondness for Furtwangler and Toscanini. In my opinion the digital recording process is just TERRIBLE and, coupled with the suffocating mediocrity of most modern conductors, is at least partially to blame for the decline of interest in Classical music. If you enjoy Classical music you owe it to yourself to try this set, and don't be misled by any MP3 samples you might hear. The actual CD's are terrific and, if you've never heard anything from Furtwangler, you'll be very pleasantly surprised.
on 20 June 2016
A historical document. The sound is adequate, even through earphones, and the performances, unless you are a period-performance authenticist, inspired both in interpretation and playing. Expressions of Germanic civilisation at an evil time.
on 4 July 2009
I discovered Beethoven when I was 13. That was nearly 40 years ago. He was my introduction to classical music and even though I love J. S. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Monteverdi (Gardiner's 1610 Vespers still blow me away every time I listen to them), Vivaldi, Telemann, Bruckner, Elgar, etc. etc. I always come back to Beethoven. Handel is known to have understood the female psyche and also, the normal limits of the human voice. This resulted in the most incredible Italian operas and English oratorios. Many composers' lives have contained much tragedy and many have expressed their feelings/sentiments in music but almost only Beethoven has wrestled with the infinite and the frustration we experience with our limitations. As I grow older I become more and more aware of increasing physical limitations but this is coupled with, I hope, greater intellectual understanding and knowledge. In 1993 I lost my sense of smell-people take this sense for granted (you would'nt if you lost it). Beethoven gradually and eventually lost his hearing. Catastrophic for a composer! He also had an unrequited love life, family difficulties, arguments with his publishers, and the general normal life he had to deal with at the cusp of the 18th/19th centuries. Everything took longer to do, no electricity, and the smallest infection could kill you (no anesthaesia or anti-biotics either). My favourite general interpreter of the symphonies is Otto Klemperer. My favourite fun version is by the Hanover Band (authentic? who knows? but I liked it). Christopher Hogwood: genius! I love much of what he has done. If you want technical excellence and perfect execution- he's your man, but if you want total emotional immersion it has to be this incredible box set. Why? Just match the dates of some of the recordings with what was actually happening in Germany. Air-raids around the clock, not enough food, constant fear of impending death and doom. These Furtwaengler interpretations have passion, fear, conviction, and they are playing as if their lives depended on it. If you love Beethoven you must buy this set. A real man who, totally expressed himself. Buy Furtwaengler- unhibited. If you're concerned about sound quality don't be. Okay It's not DDD but the tech guys have done a good job. My Bach: Cello Suites by Pablo Casals has all the racket from the original 78's but so what- they're still brilliant. A word about the politics. I don't know why Furtwaengler stayed in Germany when the Nazis came to power. Yes, he compromised with the Nazis but he didn't compromise with the music. Just about every human emotion is expressed in these recordings. I feel grateful to be alive and experience the privelege of hearing this music. Maybe Furtwaengler stayed in Germany so that people wouldn't forget how to feel.
on 1 September 2010
If you're expecting studio quality, you're there for a disappointment. Plenty of background noise and at stages, you might wonder why the tuberculous didn't just stay at home. Yet, they are some of the most delicious musical moments I've ever experienced.